Central Dining Areas

The success of the Green House mode demonstrates the value of a central, shared, domestic-scale communal area composed of living area, an open kitchen and dining area, collectively called a ‘hearth’. Meals are prepared in the open kitchen by caregivers and shared at the common kitchen table. This shared area is typically connected to a protected outdoor space, where in the more successful settings the doors are left unlocked, and the outdoor space is used for activities and socialising (Cohen et al., 2016).  

Restricted access to common areas or shared living areas can be isolating for residents and a balance must be struck between social engagement, communal activities, and infection control. This issue pre-dates COVID-19 with Stone arguing that “Maximising quality of life for the resident while minimising transmission of infections is a known challenge facing NH staff” (Stone et al., 2015). While more research is required in this area, it is useful to consider the advice set out by the AIA (2020) to change layouts in shared spaces to facilitate social distancing or provide outdoor seating and exterior social areas for occupants and visitors. 

While some settings may need to zone or group patients, it is still important to ensure there is safe walking space, especially for residents with a cognitive impairment who may ‘walk with purpose.’

(BGS, 2020)

In line with recent WHO guidelines, good ventilation is critical to reducing the transmission of COVID-19 in indoor spaces and therefore all living, kitchen, and dining areas should be well ventilated (WHO, 2021). 

Dining room is fresh, airy, and spacious and facilitates any seating arrangement.

- Family Member

Dining areas are a separate section of the living area. Whilst dining space was available to separate residents, they preferred to dine in groups together.

- Staff

My family member had meals in her bedroom during COVID-19 restrictions, but there is ample space in the upstairs dining room to socially distance residents should they choose to dine there.

- Family Member

Key Findings

in dining areas

Lack of space in dining areas across many of the case studies created difficulties in implementing social distancing measures.


Lack of space in dining areas across many of the case studies required many residents to eat in their rooms. 

Social Distancing

Lack of space in dining areas made social distancing between staff and residents difficult.